Tag Archives: E-book

The Waste Land + iPad app, and other words you never imagined in the same sentence.

Last week, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land was, for a glorious moment, the top-grossing iPad book app. (Let’s just pause for a moment to look at those words in one sentence together.) The app includes a dramatic reading from Irish actress Fiona Shaw, and commentary and readings from Viggo Mortensen, Ted Hughes, and Eliot himself. This week, Marvel & DC comics regained their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd positions, but, as of this writing, you’ll find Penguin’s  “Amplified Edition” of Keroac’s On the Road in 4th place, complete with family photos, reproductions of the original 120-foot scroll, and tributes from John Updike and Bob Dylan.

When I first read about The Waste Land app, I recoiled in reflexive disgust. “The Waste Land”  and “app” were not words I wanted to see in a sentence together. But when I saw Eliot up there with Dora the Explorer, Disney princesses and countless Bible apps trailing behind, I got excited. Not so excited that I actually want to look at the apps, but excited, nevertheless. I’m not so naive as to believe that these apps will actually make people read more poetry, more literature, or read more at all, but I’ll settle for some more people reading a poem, however they come to it.

I’m not going to get into the whole e-books vs. paper thing; it’s obvious and boring. But let me just end with a quote from The New York Times Opion page:

The real achievement [of the app] here is to make “The Waste Land” feel published — to let you feel, when you are reading Eliot’s text, that you have a well-printed book in hand, lacking only the material feel of paper itself.

Priced at $13.99, the app is almost twice as much as the paper edition from Modern Library, which has the added bonus of feeling just like a book. Though, without Viggo, I guess it’s just not the same.


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Q: How do you know you have too many books? A: When your baby has to help you pack them.

You can never have too many books… until it’s time to move house.

This is when one would yearn for an entire library stored on a single, slim, 2-pound device, right? 50 boxes in and still packing, I couldn’t disagree more. Packing up our library for the third time in as many years, my husband and I pause over the volumes that shaped those lives — and our life together. The books we read (together!) in high school, the books we gave each other (a first edition of Anagrams!), the books given to us by people who are no longer with us, the broken spines that fall open to the favorite poem, to recite again…

There is room in this society for any kind of technology that brings books to more people, that expands our notions of what kinds of containers information comes in, that enlarges our assumptions about who controls that information… and that allows us to increase font-size as our eyes decrease in acuity! But, for better or for worse, there is no room for such a device in this house. It’s too full of books.




Filed under Bits and Bobs

A Book in the Car. A Book at the Gym. A Book on the Nightstand. One up in the Air. Another one in her head. Books all Around.

I am a slow reader.  I don’t know why but I always have been and, at this point, I don’t expect to pick up speed in the future.  So given my slow savoring pace with a book, my friends are sometimes surprised that I read so many books each year (averaging about 65 a year).  A few years ago I started keeping a list of the books I read just because I find that it helps me to remember them if I jot a word or two about each one —  that’s how I know the average number I read in a year, not because I’m competing for some reading marathon award.  Unfortunately, I also have a busy work and social schedule so I rarely have time to just sit and read as a pastime, although I hope will in my dotage.  For now, I do my reading just before I go to sleep (twenty minutes) and when I wake in the middle of the night, which happens a few times a week.  Instead of tossing, turning and worrying I just grab my book and an hour later I’m usually able to drift off to sleep again.

In order to maximize my time with books I have come to utilize other venues – notably, books on CD.  On my power walk each morning, or workout at the gym I have a CD player and an ear piece with me.  I can “read” an unabridged 500-page book in about 3 weeks.  I also have a CD book (a different one) on in my car at all times. Instead of dreading that trip over to the Westside or downtown, I am, instead, thoroughly absorbed in a book that a talented actor has recorded and is entertaining me with.  Incidentally, there is nothing as wonderful as having a good book or two on CD for a long road trip.  Try it, you’ll see.

Listening to a book is a very different experience from reading one.  Granted,  holding a real book and smelling the pages and feeling the heft is lovely and sensual and nothing can take the place of that (especially an e-book).  However, listening can be an amazingly pleasant surprise and with a good narrator another dimension of expression in tone and emotion can make the characters come alive and give a deeper significance to a storyline.  Books that don’t work well on CD are ones that are cerebral and require thought and re-reading of lines, but biographies, history, memoirs, mysteries, and most fictional works are perfect.  I even plowed through the Russian classics on CD and found it completely satisfying.  There is something so gratifying to me in having a wonderful narrator acting out all the dialogue and drama while I blithely go about my business of working out or driving to work.  One must be disciplined, however, because when you reach your destination you must have the will to turn it off no matter how exciting the book is at that point.  I always tell myself that I have something to look forward to when I get back into my car or an added incentive to get back to the gym.

If you haven’t yet tried a book on CD I highly recommend that you do.  Wecan order one for you at Portrait or you can check with your local library.  Start with something simple but entertaining… perhaps a Raymond Chandler mystery, or one of  David Sedaris’s hysterical books (just don’t laugh so hard you have an accident).

Currently I’m doing my work-out to Boomsday by Christopher Buckley (very witty piece of fiction) and driving to Ron Suskind’s The Way of the World (a great non-fiction work about America and how we are dealing with the realities of terrorism since 9/11). At home on my nightstand is the “real” book I’m reading – Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom.  I feel lucky to be surrounded by my book friends as I go through my busy day.


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Filed under Bits and Bobs, Book Recommendations